Nfld. & Labrador·Opinion

Ryan Cleary on pensions – MPs and everyone else's

Ryan Cleary says MP pensions should be reviewed and he's calling for an end to attacks on public and private sector pensions in Canada

Cleary admits he misspoke and wants a review to determine if MP pensions are fair

First things first, let me be clear: my motivation in political life is not an MP pension.

Which is what makes the current controversy so ironic.

What drives me is not a handshake or hug from the Government of Canada, golden or otherwise.

My ambition is to improve Newfoundland and Labrador’s place in Canada, which I’ve focused on my entire career, and, on a grander scale as a federal politician, to help protect/improve the Canadian way of life.

That's my motivator.

A pension is nowhere near top of mind.

Late last week I was interviewed by CBC Radio about the MP pension plan, and at one point, I said that Members of Parliament deserve a pension of more than $28,000 after six years in office.

To be frank, I misspoke.

MPs deserve fair compensation, but should we qualify for a pension after just 6 years in office?

In my opinion, the answer is no.

The ultimate decision should not be left to MPs, but with an independent review.

How does the Canadian MP pension package stack up against other plans and those of politicians in other countries?

Is it too generous?

Most people seem to believe it is.

So review the plan — independently, and make the necessary changes.

Lesson learned?

Never carry out a media interview on a cell phone in the middle of the Village Mall while watching Snook, dressed in his seal-skin blazer, during a Wii bowling charity event.

It can be quite distracting.

The real issue

What’s unfortunate about my comments is they take away from the real issue.

Public and private-sector pension plans are under increasing attack across the country.

The Harper government has openly mused about raising the qualifying age for old-age pension benefits to 67 from 65.

Too many retirees/seniors live in poverty as it is, and the numbers are destined to grow if the Harper government has its way.

Unless Canadians/New Democrats take a stand.

I have done/will continue to do that on the floor of the House of Commons, and elsewhere.

A public meeting was held in my riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl in late February to discuss the future of the Old-Age Security.

"Canada is on the way to losing its soul," said one senior who attended the event.

"Our government is arrogant against its own people," said another.

A 70-year-old nurse against the idea of raising the retirement age had this to say: "After 25 years as an acute care nurse my body and soul were broken."

"Will there be retirement when we reach the age of retirement?" asked a 22-year-old Memorial University student.

That’s a very good question, and very interesting points.

My focus is not on my pension, but on everyone else’s.